I am amazed at the wonder that is online social networking. Between the constant updates and reminders of friends near and far, new and old, it makes you feel connected and “caught up” with everyone. Until one day a nostalgic run through an old online photo album reminds you that you really aren’t “caught up” with your best friend from college but have been comforted into feeling in touch by regular “status” updates. In fact, you haven’t talked to her in two years!
Whether you are a Myspace, Facebook, Hi5, Twitter or whatever networker, there are inherent dangers to the use of these networks that aren’t advertised in the marketing materials. I think you know what I mean.
These dangers are becoming particularly apparent in the divorce cases we work in our offices. The obsession with digging into our partners, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and family member’s “secret” dealings are no longer limited to just searching phones, texts and emails, but our desire to find more now has a bounty of information and wasted time in the online social networks. The casual “friending” atmosphere has lead us to a world where we easily “friend” unknowns, barely knowns, friends of friends of friends of friends, or worse... the dreaded exes.
Ex-wifes, ex-husbands, ex-girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-lovers or even, the ex-best friend (of whom your spouse has always had his/her suspicions!).
Why we think that we can somehow “friend” the exes who tore at our souls and left empty shells recovering for weeks, months or years is a phenomenon of the online world. While it is sometimes the case that exes become friends and actually speak or see each other in their new (real) worlds, it is even more frequent and much easier for us to “friend” our exes in the safe online arena where we don’t have to see them in real life. I argue that this comes with risk. Risk of getting “caught”.
By caught, I don’t just mean our current love interest, but “caught” by our own potential to obsess, frequently follow updates and even, yes, cyber stalk their pages for evidence of their lives outside the internet. Even in the most innocent of circumstances, if someone you love sees that you are “now friends with” your ex, there is bound to be fall out. Chances are, without the Spacebook medium we wouldn’t even know what we were missing, probably wouldn’t think about it and wouldn’t care that we didn’t think about it much at all.
We’ve all heard the warnings about the dangers of the internet social world and the downfall of good old telephone, or (shocker!) in-person, communication. We should probably all delete our online social networking sites or cutdown our “friends” list to people that you actually know and communicate with off the internet. There are plenty of “how to’s” on deleting your Facebook, Myspace, etc. out there.
But you probably won’t.
So if you are keeping your social networking account, here are a few pointers:
• If going through a divorce, separation or otherwise, don’t verbally attach, debase, or slander your spouse.
• Do keep your personal information personal. Surely, all 587 of your friends don’t NEED to know how much of a harpy your soon-to-be-ex-wife is.
• Don’t advertise that you are not at home or out of town (not just thieves are looking for you, but your estranged spouse may want revenge).
• Realize that everyone knows who and when you friend someone or when you comment, so you may want to be open and honest with your new wife about your recent “friending” of your ex-wife (with whom you do not speak).
• Do not admit that you participated in an otherwise unmentionable activity with your husband’s best friend in an angry wall post.
Because there is probably someone stalking your page and they WILL capture that screen, save and print the evidence before handing it to their divorce attorney.